Posted On March 14, 2012 by Print This Post

Sara Megibow Sells Romance – Shopping Self-Published Titles

There are a few hot topics out there in publishing right now and Sara is tackling a big one – shopping a previously self-published title.  In her straightforward, smart, and insightful manner, Sara gives us the info we need. 

Shopping self published titles

“Dear Sara Megibow, I am the author of a self-published novel receiving great reviews and enjoying very strong sales. I’m interested in working with a literary agent to move on to the next step and sell this book to a major NY publishing house. Would you be interested?”

Our agency fields 5-10 of these queries a day on average. It’s an interesting dilemma and one filled with controversy. (Which makes it an excellent blog topic, yes?)

No. As of today, I am not interesting in representing self-published novels. (Ok, go ahead and throw rotten tomatoes, I’m ready).


#1 – “Very strong sales” typically aren’t. Most queries don’t mention a number, but when they do it’s typically something like 500 units in a year. I don’t call that “very strong.” To me, if a self-published title has sold 10,000 units or more in a year, then those are big enough numbers to catch my attention (and that’s 10,000 units sold for money, not 10,000 freebies).

#2 – Platform. Another problem I have with many queries I see for self-published novels is the author’s platform. Often, if I check out who the author is, I find blog posts talking about how awful traditional publishing is and how great self-publishing has been instead. Certainly this is not true in every case, but by now it has happened often enough that it’s made an impression on me. And certainly I agree that traditional publishing can be hard and self-publishing can be awesome! Self-published authors who are asking an agent to re-sell their book in NY shouldn’t have visible anti-NY-publishing posts up on their blog though. That seems obvious to me. I feel that many authors have joined a traditional-publishing-is-bad bandwagon that is based more on slamming my way of doing business than it is based on exploring what’s great about their way. Maybe my way is bad and their way is good, but then why would they want to work with me as their agent? Probably this is not you, the Romance U reader, but it’s enough people out there that it warrants a mention.

#3 – The contract. Sadly, I can’t copy and paste my clients’ contracts here. HOW I wish I could! But, I will paraphrase. If you’ve previously published your novel and want a major publishing house to acquire you, then you would have to sign a major publishing house contract. Most contracts have a warranty clause that reads something like this (I can’t post directly, so I am paraphrasing here):

Author promises to the Publisher that: (i) the Work is not in the public domain; (ii) the Work has not previously been published in whole or in part; (iii) the Author has not granted other rights to this Work that would encumber (iv) etc.

The tricky part is that many self-publishing contracts don’t require the Author to sign away the rights. So, an Author shops this self-published book to an Agent assuming that they own their rights (which they do). Unfortunately, they don’t know or don’t understand that major publishers still won’t want to acquire their book because those rights are encumbered. I know it’s confusing and frustrating, but in essence – even if you’ve retained your rights, that doesn’t mean someone else will want them.

There ARE ways around the warranty clause (primarily by being upfront about where a project exists for sale or online). But, this is a business and it’s important to understand the legal ramifications of self-publishing before doing it. Even if some company says “we’ll make you a book and won’t acquire your print rights”, those rights have been exercised in a way that may prevent re-sale.

#4 – Do I love the book? Ultimately, I would make an exception to all these rules if I absolutely loved a book. In fact, my boss offered representation just last week to an author with a self-published novel. So, there are always exceptions. But, I would still have to love the book (which means loving the query letter and loving the sample pages and loving the full manuscript) just as much as I love any of my clients’ books in order to offer representation.

How does this affect you?

#1 – If you’ve self-published your novel and now want to shop it to a traditional publishing house, let the agent or editor know directly in your query letter. I’m on the more conservative end of agenting, so I might not be the right fit for this kind of project, but other agents don’t have my same philosophy.

#2 – If you’ve self-published a previous novel and are now shopping your next book (one that isn’t published anywhere), then you don’t need to mention your history in the query letter. BUT, if you have an agent offer representation for this second book, my recommendation would be to let them know upfront (so they can check your platform).

#3 – If you think traditional publishing is worse than bad dog breath, fine. But, if you’re looking for an agent or editor, then remove those posts from your blog before going out on submission.

#4 – If you are trying to decide whether or not you want to go the traditional route or the self-publishing route, then keep doing your research. There are TONS of great reasons to self-publish (the ability to go to market quickly, control over price point, self-promotions, writing to a niche market, selling backlist titles whose rights have reverted to you, writing material that supports and promotes your traditionally published books, etc). But, understand all the ramifications before pressing “sell” (the most important ramification being that in most cases a self-published novel will not be resold to a traditional publisher).

Happy writing,


Oh . . . yes, she went there!  The sticky questions surrounding self-publishing are on the table and you’ve got a really savvy lady to ask . . .  what are you waiting for?

Come back on Friday to check out the post by editor Theresa Stevens.


This months’ giveaway for one lucky commenter:
NOT WICKED ENOUGH by Carolyn Jewel

Too much temptation…

When Lily Wellstone heads to the Bitterward Estate to comfort her widowed friend Eugenia, she certainly does not have romance in mind. In fact the playful but level-headed Lily is amused to no end when, en route, a Gypsy gifts her with a beautiful medallion, claiming it will ensnare the romantic desires of a stranger.

But Fate has other plans in the form of Eugenia’s ruggedly handsome brother, the Duke of Mountjoy. One day at Bitterward and Lily can’t deny the sizzling attraction between her and the roguish Duke. Nothing can come of it, of course. She’s not looking for entanglements and he’s practically engaged. But whether it’s her outgoing nature and the duke’s outlandish ways sparking off one another, or the mysterious Gypsy medallion working “magic,” hearts are stirring in the most unexpected and wicked ways…



Bio: Sara Megibow, Associate Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC

Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. As the Associate Literary Agent, Sara is actively acquiring new clients! The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing all genres of romance (except inspirational or category), young adult fiction of all subgenres, science fiction/ fantasy and commercial fiction (including women’s fiction and chick lit). Sara is an avid romance reader and a rabid fan girl of super sexy and intelligent stories.

Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website http:// submission guidelines, FAQs, resources and sample query letters. Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site ( is a great place to find more about her personal tastes, clients and recent sales. You can also cyber stalk Sara on twitter @SaraMegibowHow an agent chooses what books to read.


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57 Responses to “Sara Megibow Sells Romance – Shopping Self-Published Titles”

  1. Sara, thank you for your candor. I’m glad you went there with number 2. This particular issue has been much on my mind lately because of the many anti-traditional publishing posts I’ve seen on my loops. Now I feel hesitant to tell folks I’m traditionally published and that I’ve received incredible marketing/publicity support via my publisher. Right now, I don’t see myself navigating this business without an agent and editor/publisher. I want both and don’t want to feel bad about that decision. I have no problem with writers who choose self-publishing. A couple of friends and I are working on an e-anthology. As Sara mentioned, there are wonderful opportunities in self-publishing. But for my single titles, the traditional route is best for me.

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 14, 2012, 4:46 am
  2. Sara – great post!

    As an agent, is it more difficult to sell one of these manuscripts to a publisher or does having a good sales record help you?


    Posted by Robin Covington | March 14, 2012, 5:47 am
    • So far, in my experience, it’s MORE difficult to sell one of these manuscripts (one big reason I don’t do it). The exception *might* be a novel that’s sold 50,000 or so copies in a year.

      Posted by Sara Megibow | March 14, 2012, 10:26 am
  3. Hi Sara,

    If you read a self-pubbed book and loved it, would you check the author’s website and leave a comment? Similiar to sending her a business card to keep you in mind?

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | March 14, 2012, 5:51 am
    • Excellent question. I might. However, to be honest – I don’t troll for authors right now. We get 150-200 queries a day and that keeps me plenty busy. When I read a book I love, I tend to send the author a message on twitter just to say “loved it.” I’ve read 40ish books in 2012 so far and they have all been NY published – no self-pubs yet.

      Posted by Sara Megibow | March 14, 2012, 11:00 am
  4. I appreciate your straight answers to these questions. In reading your blogs, tweets, interviews, I feel that I can count on you to cut to the chase – thank you!

    I support those who go the self-publishing route, although I’m an old-fashioned gal, and will continue to pitch, write synopsis (ess…ugh), and go to RWA national conferences and local chapter retreats to shop my wares. I do agree, however, that I don’t see self-publishing as the path to publishing houses or agents, except in rare cases. However those rare success stories are making news. What, if any, is the advantage of the current ‘buzz’ for self-published books, or rags-to-riches stories (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) to the romance publishing industry?

    Posted by Denny S. Bryce | March 14, 2012, 6:48 am
    • You’ve hit the nail on the head here – the exceptions are making the news. I’m all for self publishing too, but the numbers are staggering and the huge winners are such a rare, rare, rare exception. To be fair, huge winners in traditional publishing are rare too – so it’s all a crap shoot.

      But for me, so far, as of today, I don’t see self publishing as typically the best way to break in to NY publishing. Again FOR ME and IN GENERAL.

      Posted by Sara Megibow | March 14, 2012, 11:02 am
      • Sara, check out this list of indie authors who have sold more (sometimes a lot more) than 50,000 books:

        It’s not a complete list, as it comes from writers who go on Kindleboards, and not all self-published writers do that. I’ve heard of quite a few writers who’ve been approached by reputable agents. I have myself.

        Posted by Lexi Revellian | March 17, 2012, 1:22 pm
  5. Thanks for speaking out on this subject as an agent. I have been wondering how various agents view this sea change in the business in the days of Hocking and Locke. I know some agencies are starting self-pubbing units for their own authors.

    I don’t agree with you about scrubbing personal views on the change from an author’s internet history (not even sure it is truly possible). But I think I fall on the side of “polite, but unvarnished” when it comes to facts and realities in the publishing world. And that very well may have bitten me in the rear more than once, so your advice will definitely be heeded by the more cautious, I’m sure.

    I really appreciate your defining strong sales in your eyes. That’s something I wonder about, myself, and I know other authors do. I’m putting out my backlist for long tail sales, so I try not to compare apples to oranges (sales in first royalty period of trad vs first six months in ebook just doesn’t deal with the fact that paperbacks fall off the shelves and ebooks potentially look fresh forever).

    Sometimes I think we’ll have definitive answers and comparatives soon…and sometimes I think we never will 🙂

    Posted by Kelly McClymer | March 14, 2012, 7:02 am
  6. Sara – Thanks for explaining about the contract clause regarding previously published works. Lots of good information here!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 14, 2012, 7:41 am
  7. Good morning, Sara! I always love your posts.

    This is such a hot topic right now and I’m always fascinated by the different opinions. Ultimately, I think we all need to do our research (whether traditionally pubbed or indie) and make sure we understand the ramifications of any decision we make.

    Your post did spark a thought not related to indie pubbing. What do you consider strong sales for a debut book vs. a bestseller? I think debut authors often think their sales are bad when they might actually be fairly good for a debut.


    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | March 14, 2012, 7:55 am
    • Excellent question!

      And you are 100% correct that there are so many different opinions!

      Strong sales? Yikes – that’s a tough one to answer. 200 books a week can be strong sales and 2000 books a week can be strong sales – depends on the genre and the publishing house. Adults sf/f numbers *tend* to be smaller than fantasy/ paranormal YA for example.

      Posted by Sara Megibow | March 14, 2012, 11:07 am
  8. Morning Sara!

    Great post! I’d always wondered what an agents-eyed view on the subject was. What is your opinion – can an author be both self-pubbed AND NY pubbed AND have an agent at the same time? I know CJ Lyons seems to be doing quite well at it, but what’s your thoughts?

    Thanks, as always for posting with us!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | March 14, 2012, 8:31 am
    • Yes – ABSOLUTELY!

      this post is directed to the phenomenon of authors trying to re-sell their self pubbed books to NY. THAT doesn’t work for me.

      However, YES – self publishing a series of works and simultaneously publishing different novels with NY is an excellent way to leverage both trends.

      Both trends have their pros and cons, so an author would have to be wicked smart to pull this off, but isn’t that true of us all anyway?

      go for it – excellent idea!

      Posted by Sara Megibow | March 14, 2012, 11:09 am
  9. Sara,

    Thanks for the post on self-publishing. Good point on not bashing traditional publishing. I like to blog about what works in self-publishing without bashing traditional publishing.

    I’m one of those rare people you wrote about–my self-published series (sweet historical Westerns)had been turned down by all the big six traditional publishers. I self-published them last April, and to date have sold about 65,000 (of three titles) books.

    Early on–at about the 10,000 sales point, I did have an agent approach me. (I’m already agented.) And I’ve had two publishers approach me. One editor was from a big six publisher that had rejected the first book several years ago.

    I’ve chosen to go with Amazon Montlake, although I’m still self-publishing my books that aren’t in this series, and short stories and novellas set in this series.

    So it can happen. However, I would have been just as happy if it didn’t. I’m making a LOT of money all by my self and was hesitant to hand my creations over to someone else.

    Posted by Debra Holland | March 14, 2012, 9:07 am
  10. Yet another reason to be cognizant of and professional in the information you put out on the Internet! I cringe at all the negativity I see out there.

    I published the traditional route with HQN, and I must admit, it’s a bit confining. I’m envious of all the self-publishing success stories I see. But numbers can be inflated, and success stories can be overstated.

    After three published books, one to be published, and two more contracted, I’m still trying to figure out where’s the best place for me in this fast changing industry…

    Posted by Wendy S. Marcus | March 14, 2012, 9:14 am
    • Wendy –

      excellent point. Traditional publishing has a ton of cons (and a ton of pros). Neither one is (typically) perfect. You’re right to keep looking at your career and keep researching and staying educated.

      I, too, am envious when I see huge break out successes – on either side of the fence. I want this for my authors each and every time. I don’t know how to make something go viral although I wish I did. I know a lot, but not everything and that’s where I keep finding myself.


      Posted by Sara Megibow | March 14, 2012, 11:43 am
  11. Sara – Roughly how many self-publishing queries do you get as compared to queries from unpublished authors? Is that ratio changing?

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | March 14, 2012, 9:58 am
  12. Dare I mention your take on the light BDSM that is moving its way up few bestseller list FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and the unethical way it was published (not my opinion just what I have been reading, plus Roni Loren the most amazing cyber pal gave a great post today about how that book has impacted BDSM books a must have for publishers and started a unexpected trend.

    Posted by Keisha | March 14, 2012, 2:39 pm
    • It’s definitely a hot topic. In fact, if I’d known in advance that this hooplah would be happening, I would have planned a blog post about 50 SHADES instead. I WILL post about it on our Nelson Agency newsletter on April 1 (sign up by going to the home page of

      In both trad publishing and self publishing there WILL be some lottery winners. I have no idea who and I have no idea how to make it happen, but there just will. Just like in music – there will be someone that makes it HUGE. That’s 50 SHADES today. I’m glad it hits a trend in which my authors write – that’s for sure.

      Ahem…if anyone wants to read brilliant BDSM erotic romance, try CRASH INTO YOU by Roni Loren, or the upcoming THE SIREN by Tiffany Reisz.

      *shameless plug I know, but had to be done*

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | March 14, 2012, 3:16 pm
  13. Great info, Sarah.

    Tracey, don’t feel as if you have to defend your decision to publish traditionally. Like you, I’ve gotten great marketing and promotional support from my publisher. I don’t know what it’s like at other houses, but this week alone, I’ve had planning sessions/conversations via email with the publicist, my editor, and my agent every single day, sometimes involving all of us,as we lead up to the launch of my 3rd book on April 1st. I also believe that this is the best way to build my brand since I’m relatively new.

    As for indie publishing, I definitely think those with backlists are providing readers with something they want. I can remember how tough it was to find the older books of some of my favorite authors.

    I’m sure we’d all love to be able to consult a crystal ball about the future, but for now, each of us must make the decision that fits our individual careers. As for public rants, that’s unprofessional. No one wants to work with

    Posted by Vicky Dreiling | March 14, 2012, 3:29 pm
    • EXCELLENT notes Vicky – thanks for sharing. I agree with everything you say here.

      I, too, cheer when a self-pub novel sells well. It’s wonderful to have options in this world of publishing.

      But, I (too) trend more toward trad publishing right now as most of my clients are debut authors and want the team approach.

      What’s right for one author won’t necessarily be right for another. You’ve added great comments here, thanks!

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | March 14, 2012, 3:46 pm
    • Woo-hoo – Hi Vicky! Thanks so much for joining us today!

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 14, 2012, 8:12 pm
  14. Thanks so much for the candid q & a. I think an Indie author has to decide if after getting feedback from the traditional publishers they want to tell their story anyway but be prepared to put work into it. I also think a lot of trad publishers are now expecting their authors to do a lot of the work also for marketing/promotion. If you’re willing to spend time networking Indie pub might be the best chance for you to gain readers and get noticed. Thanks again.

    Posted by Renee Pace | March 14, 2012, 7:00 pm
    • Renee –

      I agree 100%. I think that trad publishers ARE asking their authors to do a lot. A lot of marketing and promotions, a lot of social networking, etc. This is an excellent point.

      Before an author decides which avenue is best, this is an excellent thing to weigh.

      Mostly, my post is aimed at addressing the increase of books already self-published that I find authors are presenting to agents. In this case, the decision has been made and these things you mention are great to consider also.


      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | March 15, 2012, 7:23 am
  15. Sara, and everyone else,
    Thanks so much for sharing all your information. This is such a quickly changing world that it’s really hard to keep up with it all,

    Posted by Suzi Love | March 14, 2012, 7:31 pm
    • My pleasure Suzi –

      Yes – changing quickly. When I’m feeling glass-half-full about it, I think that all this change means LOTS more opportunity for authors. So, that’s the best part of the silver lining.


      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | March 15, 2012, 7:24 am
  16. Sara, what a timely and important post. I work with literary agent Jenny Bent, and my self-pubbed sales are over 150,000 in the last 8 months (SOLD not free, and not 99 cents). After seeing the trouble others had gaining a contract, we opted to work toward traditionally publishing my next title. It’s a tough time for publishers to figure out how to make their money, so if we all thought querying was difficult before the ebook revolution, its twice as hard now.

    The publishing landscape changes almost weekly, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Posted by Melissa Foster (@Melissa_Foster) | March 14, 2012, 7:48 pm
    • Wow, Melissa – those are great numbers! Congratulations!

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 14, 2012, 8:13 pm
    • Melissa –

      this is WONDERFUL!

      I adore Jenny and I know she gave you the best advice – she is brilliant. Yup, THESE numbers qualify as a self pubbed success – great work!

      99% of the time, when I get a query in the inbox from an author who has self pubbed, their numbers are no where NEAR this (which is probably why they are looking to try trad pub). Your case is rare and a huge success to celebrate –

      CONGRATS and thanks sincerely for sharing!

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | March 15, 2012, 7:25 am
      • Thank you, Sara. I hope to help many authors see the path to giving their books wings, and Jenny is a delight to work with. You had actually critiqued the first three pages of my last ms after a webinar (you gave it very high marks). Thank you! I enjoy following your discussions. Keep on keeping it real!

        Posted by Melissa Foster (@Melissa_Foster) | March 16, 2012, 7:46 am
  17. Thanks, Becke, lots of hard work. I’m paying it forward, though. I started the World Literary Cafe, and I’m helping authors learn to market and cross promote, and holding many exposure driven events for the literary community. Success is nothing if not shared:-)

    Posted by Melissa Foster (@Melissa_Foster) | March 14, 2012, 8:45 pm
  18. I had thought this would be a flat out “no” which seems to be true for you, but interesting that other agents still consider this. Even though I see it happen occasionally, it seems to be the outliers, not an everyday occurrence.

    I had a question about this, though I’m a little late to the game. Let’s say you have these kind of “big” numbers, like 10K a year. Then you go to shop some new unrelated book. Do you mention those sales? What if they are in a different genre, and therefore won’t be listed under the same pen name, are they relevant then? Does stuff like this matter to the editors when the agent tries to shop a book, or is it all about that book?


    Posted by Amber | March 14, 2012, 9:54 pm
    • Amber – excellent question!

      And YES – other agents absolutely DO consider self-pubbed novels. I don’t – for the reasons above, but others do.

      10K per year wouldn’t be big enough (in my opinion) to mention. If it’s 5K per month (or better, 10K per month), then those are “great” numbers. Otherwise, just leave it out of a query. Query your next book and then talk through everything in your phone conversation with an agent.

      Great question!

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | March 15, 2012, 7:27 am
      • Thanks! I appreciate the hard numbers here. It is so hard to figure out what is considered success or not, either in self publishing or digital or traditional. A topic for another post? 😉

        Posted by Amber | March 15, 2012, 12:13 pm
  19. Thanks for the post Sara. It answered a few questions for me and confirmed a few conclusions I’d drawn. Most notably that being indie published does not mean being less professional, but more.
    I am indie published (just newly and still feeling my way) and was quite surprised by the number of people who approach you to wangle a contract for them.
    Then again, I did not indie publish because I turned my back on traditional publishing. Not at all. I hope to one day go that way with a new a fresh novel.
    I took the decision to indie publish my book because the feedback I was getting from agents and publishers was that it didn’t quite fit what they were looking for even though it was doing well in competitions. I figured I’d spent enough of my life on the thing and so I gave it one last polish and found myself an editor.
    She loved it, said it was one of the best she’d read in a while. Which heartened me I can tell you. It has been an interesting journey in which I have made a few mistakes which thankfully are private mistakes for the most part.
    I am not a natural self-promoter so that is my current challenge. When all I want to do is go back into my latest story and keep writing. Oh well. Needless to say my sales have not been strong. But I have several books to read on self-promotion and hopefully things will improve. My day job is my own business which I started from scratch and built it up so I figure I can treat being indie published that way and it will work in the end. That business model does not preclude having an agent and a print publishing contract. I think they’d fit with that very nicely.
    If not, there’s always the next book to write which is the whole point after all.

    Posted by Louisa Mack | March 15, 2012, 5:50 am
    • Thanks Louisa –

      thanks for sharing and congratulations! This is an excellent reason to indie publish – seriously, you should be so proud! This is a true success story and one you should be honored to share. And, no worries about the self promotions – you have a natural voice in email, so likely it will pick up.


      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | March 15, 2012, 8:08 am
  20. This is so informative to someone who is not quite ready to think about the direction in which she wants to go as far as publishing. You touched on so much I wouldn’t have considered and appreciate your candor!

    Posted by Kelly Wolf | March 15, 2012, 9:58 am
  21. Wow – super informative post! It’s such an interesting time for authors, agents and everyone else in this industry. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

    Posted by Jemi Fraser | March 15, 2012, 10:56 am
  22. Sara, I really appreciate the information you shared. While I’m a few months from getting serious about querys and submissions, I’m watching this changing business landscape with keen attention.
    One question — in your paraphrased section from a contract, it states that (i) the Work is not in the public domain; (ii) the Work has not previously been published in whole or in part. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t a book being published (self or otherwise) mean that it’s in the public domain AND it’s been published? Seem these clauses take affect even before one considers the rights and who owns them. Just wondered!

    Posted by Cate Harris | March 15, 2012, 12:34 pm
  23. Great post. I’m in the process of exploring traditional publishing vs self publishing and am also finding a lot of the anti-traditional publishing posts hard to read, I can only imagine what it’s like for an agent.

    I share snippets of my work on my blog – would this be against the clause of publishing any part of the manuscript and make it harder to get a publishing contract? Sometimes these snippets end up as part of a manuscript & other times they don’t.

    Posted by Melissa | March 15, 2012, 8:15 pm
  24. Thank you for your post, Sara.

    We’ve all read about authors like Amanda Hocking who self-publish their way to fame and fortune. But I’m curious: How often does this happen? Are there any industry stats on how many units self-published books actually sell? And how much their authors make?

    Also, in your well-informed opinion, what separates the self-published books that succeed from those that fail? Is it any different from that which separates the traditionally-published books that succeed from those that fail?

    Keep up the good work!

    Posted by Mary Anne Landers | March 15, 2012, 9:23 pm
  25. I’m curious about something…

    If novel was first published by a small press, and that small press went kaput (during the first print run of the book in my case) and all copies of that book were shipped then shipped to the author’s doorstep along with all rights to that novel, is that book/author lumped in with the self-published crowd you’re talking about in your article?

    In my case, I half-heartedly … that is, very passively … marketed the book on my own website and on Kindle ever since the publisher (Gardenia Press) went out of business in 2004. Now, however, I’ve lit a new fire under my own toosh and want to try to find an agent this time around and, hopefully, resurrect the novel with a larger, more stable publisher. It would be heartbreaking to learn that the demise of my first publisher (and what I have or haven’t done with the book since then) basically killed any chance of having the book published traditionally, which is what I truly want.

    Sorry to be so self-centered in my question, but I’d really like to know what you think.

    Thanks in advance.

    Posted by Deb | March 16, 2012, 5:59 pm
  26. Awesome, awesome post! Thank you so much, Sara!

    Posted by Martha Ramirez | March 16, 2012, 6:50 pm
  27. Thanks, Sara, for sharing this great information. You make some important points — particularly regarding how it’s not wise to put down traditional publishing if you are going to turn around and try to get a traditional contract!

    I suspect you are unlikely to hear from self-published authors who have the sales numbers you seek. Those authors are typically making far more money at the 70% royalty rates than they would with legacy publishers. While there are certainly advantages to traditional deals, once you’ve conquered the challenges of self-publishing and traveled that learning curve, you’re likely to just keep on doing it yourself and reaping the benefits.

    It might be interesting for you and others to see this list of self-published authors who are up above the 50,000 ebook sales mark, many of them within one year:,103665.msg1578307.html#msg1578307

    And while that number of sales might not be high enough for significant profit for legacy publishers, it translates (at a conservative $2.99 cover price for an ebook) to profits of $100,000 per year FOR THE AUTHOR. Which is considerably more than the average advance from traditional publishers. My first big week, at the holiday high point of sales of new Kindles, netted me $6,000+ for my “chick-lit” political thriller.

    Is a writer more likely to hit the jackpot via traditional or self-publishing? The odds may be even — but so much of it lies within an author’s control when she does it herself.

    Posted by Patrice Fitzgerald | March 17, 2012, 8:24 pm
  28. There is an interesting counterpoint to this discussion going on in the comments for a thread at “The Passive Voice” blog. Sara and others might enjoy reading it here:

    Posted by Patrice Fitzgerald | March 19, 2012, 9:21 am
    • The Passive Voice article IS very enlightening. Among other things, he (a lawyer) completely debunks the contract issues Sara raises. Bottom line: there is no issue.

      Perhaps just as pertinent, however, if you read the comments, is this line of thinking: If a writer is self publishing to the tune of 10,000+ copies sold of a book, what on EARTH do they want to traditionally publish the book for? At that level of sales, you’re almost guaranteed to lose money moving the book from self to “old school” publishing.

      Unless a publisher wanted to pony up high six digits or better (which HAS happened, with writers like Michael Sullivan and Amanda Hocking), it’s unlikely an author would even be interested, at that point.

      Posted by Kevin O. McLaughlin | March 19, 2012, 5:56 pm


  1. […] the opposite of Ms. Davenport and move from self-pubbed to traditional, agent Sara Megibow has some advice for […]

  2. […] rights”, those rights have been exercised in a way that may prevent re-sale.Link to the rest at Romance UniversityPassive Guy will comment briefly on Sara’s item #3.The tricky part is that many […]

  3. […] mentioned a Romance University post by agent Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency discussing the problems associated with […]

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